Student Projects for Lighting Design Class

Playajackal

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Nov 29, 2016
Location
Bay Area, California
Hi all,

A while ago I asked for recommendations for a textbook to use for my upcoming lighting design class - ended up going with Richard Dunham's Stage Lighting:The Fundamentals. I'm currently working on my syllabus and figuring out a list of student projects and I thought there might be some good ideas folks here might like to share.
The class is a beginner's Introduction to lighting design, we'll cover common instruments and their uses, cabling and electricity, how to use an Ion system console, and creating and understanding lighting plots and other paperwork as well as talking about the design process. We have a good sized black box theater with a decent inventory of conventional and LED instruments the students can work in, as well as a computer lab that has Vectorworks and the Ion programming software on the machines. Some thoughts I have already include:

Gathering photographs that contain dramatic lighting looks and analyzing them (real life pictures, not from shows)

Choosing and analyzing a painting with dramatic lighting, then making two or three sketches of the painting drawn as if the lighting was coming from different directions

Breakdown of lighting needs and looks for a particular script

Gathering images to illustrate design ideas for a particular play (probably let them choose between 3 or 4 plays)

Color mixing experiments on a variety of different scenery and costume pieces

Creating a rep plot and channel hook-up for a theoretical stage with a limited number of instruments and circuits

Creating a single look for an iconic moment everyone in the class should know, e.g. Frankenstein's monster coming alive, Sleeping Beauty being woken by her prince, Robin Hood and Little John fighting on a bridge, etc

Lighting a short Shakespeare scene with at least four cues



Would love to hear your ideas! Thanks
 

RonHebbard

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Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
Hi all,

A while ago I asked for recommendations for a textbook to use for my upcoming lighting design class - ended up going with Richard Dunham's Stage Lighting:The Fundamentals. I'm currently working on my syllabus and figuring out a list of student projects and I thought there might be some good ideas folks here might like to share.
The class is a beginner's Introduction to lighting design, we'll cover common instruments and their uses, cabling and electricity, how to use an Ion system console, and creating and understanding lighting plots and other paperwork as well as talking about the design process. We have a good sized black box theater with a decent inventory of conventional and LED instruments the students can work in, as well as a computer lab that has Vectorworks and the Ion programming software on the machines. Some thoughts I have already include:

Gathering photographs that contain dramatic lighting looks and analyzing them (real life pictures, not from shows)

Choosing and analyzing a painting with dramatic lighting, then making two or three sketches of the painting drawn as if the lighting was coming from different directions

Breakdown of lighting needs and looks for a particular script

Gathering images to illustrate design ideas for a particular play (probably let them choose between 3 or 4 plays)

Color mixing experiments on a variety of different scenery and costume pieces

Creating a rep plot and channel hook-up for a theoretical stage with a limited number of instruments and circuits

Creating a single look for an iconic moment everyone in the class should know, e.g. Frankenstein's monster coming alive, Sleeping Beauty being woken by her prince, Robin Hood and Little John fighting on a bridge, etc

Lighting a short Shakespeare scene with at least four cues



Would love to hear your ideas! Thanks
@Playajackal Demonstrate the differences in lighting surfaces from two opposite angles in two contrasting colors, pay particular attention to the differences when the surface is flat or globular, for example, the differences between lighting a flat piece of scenery or the globular surface of a face / skull. You'll see HUGE differences in how the colors change and blend as they pass across the face.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 

derekleffew

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Las Vegas, NV, USA
...Gathering photographs that contain dramatic lighting looks and analyzing them (real life pictures, not from shows)
Next step: actually re-create the lighting from one of the paintings or photographs.

An exercise that seemingly has little to do with lighting: find a piece of music that conveys the same mood or feelings as the play. Not necessarily something that would be used in the play, but gets the students thinking in a non-visual manner.
 

DGotlieb

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Joined
Jan 6, 2013
Location
Bay Area
set up a small light lab on your black box with 8-10 lights from different directions pointing at some interesting objects (always a fan of borrowing some dress forms from the costume shop with some fun costumes)
have them pick a short song and design lights to the song. The biggest challenge is being able to have enough time for students to come in and program.
 

RonHebbard

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Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
set up a small light lab on your black box with 8-10 lights from different directions pointing at some interesting objects (always a fan of borrowing some dress forms from the costume shop with some fun costumes)
have them pick a short song and design lights to the song. The biggest challenge is being able to have enough time for students to come in and program.
@Playajackal As above and / or set a styro foam form normally used for drying and styling wigs on top of a four or five foot ladder and practice lighting the foam form from a variety of angles in a variety of colors. For added variety, add wigs and hats and note the effects of hat brims when pulled down low and / or tilted up and back.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 

JChenault

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Joined
Jan 5, 2009
Location
seattle, wa USA
One class project I have seen was to give each student a small light plot and paperwork that was hung. The students job was to fix all the things that were wrong with it ( usually with the TA’s as crew). Issues like a circuit patched wrong. Bad gel color. Burned out lamp. 10 degree lens instead of 50. Wrong address gobo. Etc.

Between students the TA’s re broke everything
 
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Moonthink

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Joined
Nov 12, 2013
Location
here
An old late broadway lighting designer that I used to know -- Tom Skelton, used to tell stories of early days and lighting challenges he faced that helped him grow as a designer. One story was about trying to do a dance concert with only 2 scoops -- it was all they had! The challenge there was -- how many different looks, moods, etc. could you create with an extremely limited setup? I would suggest a similar scenario.
 

Butch!

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Dec 16, 2018
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Under there
One of my wife's favorite projects from college (she has an MFA in lighting design) was being told to design a show for a theater with unlimited fixtures, unlimited dimmers and an unlimited budget. After that was submitted the prof came back and said now cut a third of it and justify what you've kept and what you've cut. After that the challenge was to scale it down for a small house with only 96 dimmers. Then to create the touring version that was playing high schools with a 200 amp limit. At the time she thought she was being tortured, but now many, many years later she values it because it taught her how to take a big vision and then decide what she had to have and what she could live without.

When we work together on a show it's always an experience as I have access to 100's of fixtures and more dimming than most of the facilities we work in have power for. She usually presents me with a starting plot that's amazing, but unrealistic given time constraints and the limitations of the facility (no dear, we have to leave some battens for the scenery). It's interesting to 'negotiate' and see what she keeps and what she drops as we reach a balance. But at the same time when she's contacted by places with a limited rep plot and a small rental budget she's instantly able to make the decisions and send out a plot.
 

StradivariusBone

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Aug 23, 2013
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Space Coast, FL
One project we do (and stole from a university- possibly Central Florida, but I think they stole it from someone else, Colorado maybe?) is Rock Band. Essentially, we build a flash and trash lighting plot on our stage using whatever fixtures we can to make it look like a rock show. The kids design some sort of set, usually pretty basic with some creative platform placement and then they set about programming lights to a song of their choosing.

We did use the actual game "Rock Band" for a number of years, but it was a definite learning curve. We had to identify the version of the game that allowed the "No-fail mode" because otherwise the songs would continually restart when the kids screwed up and also the one that allowed for the entire playlist to be unlocked with a cheat code. We are actually moving toward a karaoke model this year since the game drum set has seen better days and the limited playlist is showing its age with these Millennial children (although one of them is determined to use "Also sprach Zarathustra").

Programming time is a bear. I have to put them into groups in order to give everyone enough time with the computer and even then it takes a solid month. We did have a couple years where they could busk vs. create a cue stack, but I had a lot that did no prep and then just showed up and button mashed their way through it. For most of what we do it's a more valuable experience for them to create a cue stack. But it gives us a chance to talk about setting and accenting mood in music and creating a visual component to the aural medium. The kids love it. They learn a lot about our controller (LightFactory) and really get to explore how to use the lights we've got in unique ways. With using tracks instead of the game this year, I'm thinking we'll also explore the use of timecode.
 
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sk8rsdad

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Programming time is a bear.
Using Capture would allow you to give each student a virtual lighting rig. There's a Presentation feature to package and distribute a standalone executable. A single Solo or Duet license is probably all you need. Educational pricing is available.
 
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Robert Books

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Oct 22, 2014
also check with Vectorworks on student licences of Vision.

I also did the recreate a famous painting with lighting instruments, color, etc. it was interesting, since the painting we had to do had an open door stage left, and a window stage right with light coming from both in different colors. we also had to do a rough draft of the set that was in the painting.
 
I've done this project a couple of times and the students absolutely love it. Pick a piece of music (3-5 min long) and with a rep plot, design a light show to go with the music that auto-follows (so they only hit the go button for the first que). I assign 10 cue numbers for each student (so Suzie has 1-10, John has 11-20, etc). I set up a sign-up sheet with blocks of 2 hours to use the booth during times that aren't used by others and have a key in a realtor's lock box to get in. The student show so much creativity with this project!
 

Ancient Engineer

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Sep 21, 2017
Location
Sandusky, Ohio
Something that I see NOT present in many young designers mental playbooks is the understanding of basic Key/Fill/Hair lighting relationship.
Why those angles/intensites are important. How that lighting relationship translates to so many other uses.
I mentioned that to a class of university seniors I was asked to lecture to and they had no idea... none.

I am also sad at the eschewing of the fresnel in these modern times. The S4 is a fine instrument, for some things. PARs are fine instruments for some things. Neither one does a decent wash...
PARs have that !#% football shaped hot spot and S4s are too narrow. If you back them up enough to do a wash the inverse-square law kills you.
"Oh, but Jerry fresnels are ancient technology, get with the times man!"
I used Arri's L-series fresnels with AMAZING results on a show I did last year. Essentially all of the stage lighting was with these instruments except for a few S4s for effects...
https://www.arri.com/en/l-series

How many PARs or S4s would it take to make a even, bright wash across a 150' stage? How many fresnels?


The loss of those kinds of basic ideas from a school make me a touch wispy. Good lighting helps tell the story, bad lighting distracts from it.

Ask your kids if their design is helping to tell the story...
 

Playajackal

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Joined
Nov 29, 2016
Location
Bay Area, California
I've done this project a couple of times and the students absolutely love it. Pick a piece of music (3-5 min long) and with a rep plot, design a light show to go with the music that auto-follows (so they only hit the go button for the first que). I assign 10 cue numbers for each student (so Suzie has 1-10, John has 11-20, etc). I set up a sign-up sheet with blocks of 2 hours to use the booth during times that aren't used by others and have a key in a realtor's lock box to get in. The student show so much creativity with this project!
Hi there Debra - so, did you have each student do a different song, or everyone just do a short section of one song?
 

gbirdsall

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Joined
Mar 23, 2011
Location
Denver, CO
One thing I would suggest from when I worked in a theatre as the MLO and worked with guest designers.

Have one program and one call the looks they want, 1-4 at 50 etc, without their plot in front of them. The amount of time I have had wasted by designers that didn't know what they had in their plot was amazing to me. It would also teach them the delicate art of making changes without frustrating the programmer. While I usually didn't mind a bit of OT programming I would usually get frustrated when a 12 hour day turned into a 20 hour day programming, with extremely minute changes to a dance show.
 

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